One of the greatest gifts you can leave your survivors is an organized estate. The time you spend now will help your loved ones to cope later and will ensure that your wishes are carried out. Here is a simplified checklist to help you start organizing your financial life and setting forth instructions your loved ones will follow. We are here to help you every step of the way.
Draft or update your will. A will allows you to determine what happens to your assets and possessions when you die and specifies who will become the guardian of minor children. If a will or trust does not exist, state laws and courts make those decisions on your behalf.
Compose a living will. This document can speak for you by outlining the medical procedures you want taken (and more importantly, those that you do not want) if you become too ill to state your wishes.
Create durable powers of attorney. These documents allow you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make them for yourself. There are two types: one to deal with your personal, legal, and financial affairs, and another to deal with healthcare decisions.
Create a letter of instruction. This document provides a list of instructions for your survivors to follow. For example, it can spell out funeral wishes, people to contact, and where key documents can be found. It can also provide information about your financial accounts and activities.
Calculate your net worth, including life insurance proceeds. It is important to remember that this is a snapshot in time and calculating your net worth needs to be updated regularly.
Establish a trust, if appropriate. A trust is a legal vehicle for managing assets. There are many types of trusts, each of which are used for specific situations. Speak with your CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ or estate attorney to see if a trust is best for your situation.
Review and update your listed beneficiaries for IRA, 401(k), other retirement plans, annuities, and additional accounts that allow beneficiary designations.
List the location of valuable documents. This list might include deeds, car titles, military records, birth and marriage certificates, divorce decrees and estate planning documents.
Verify account ownership on all of your accounts. Check financial accounts and insurance policies to make sure these match your estate planning wishes.
Check out our Estate Planning Toolkit on our website. We have provided additional insight when creating or reviewing your estate plan.